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LERA Assists Property Owners Adjacent to Construction Projects

By Benjamin M. Cornelius, PE, SE

New York City neighborhoods include old and new buildings side by side.

With residential construction spending at an unprecedented high,[2] quiet neighborhoods are becoming difficult to find, and disputes between new development teams and owners of adjoining property are common. While many projects are completed without major problems, the nature of construction, and the proximity of most sites to their neighbors, can be a mix that leads to conflict.

When a neighbor decides it is time to build, the experience can be disruptive and sometimes damaging. Some of the questions that arise in the minds of adjoining property owners are:

  • What documents must I obtain to assess the potential impacts of an adjacent construction project on my property?

  • How do I establish the pre-construction condition of my property, so that I can identify settlement or other damage that may be caused by the neighboring construction project? And who pays for this survey?

  • What monitoring should a neighboring builder undertake to ensure my property is protected?

  • Who do I notify if I observe an unsafe condition?

  • What do I do if a neighboring project team asks to use my water or electrical service?

  • How will adjacent construction affect my use of my property?

  • Under what circumstances can a builder enter my property?

  • When is it appropriate to grant a neighboring project team a license to enter my property, and what terms are essential to protecting my property?

Answers to these questions depend on a number of factors, including the local building laws, the scale and configuration of the neighboring construction project, the construction schedule and the development team’s approach to addressing the concerns of their neighbors. Some of the keys to avoiding disputes and damage are:

  • a clear understanding of your rights as a property owner;

  • a proper assessment of the pre-construction condition of your property;

  • a clear understanding of the proposed construction and how it impacts your property;

  • appropriate and informed monitoring of construction activity; and

  • appropriate communication between you, the neighbor's project team and, as necessary, governmental authorities having jurisdiction over the project.

This list can seem daunting, but help is available. Owners of property adjacent to proposed or ongoing construction projects should consider consulting with construction industry experts to help them address each of these issues and protect their interests.

As experienced designers, peer reviewers and investigators of projects across New York City and the world, Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA) understands the unique risks that face property owners next door to construction projects. For years, LERA has helped clients who build in urban environments mitigate disputes with neighbors, and this experience positions us well to advise owners of property adjoining construction sites. If you become aware of a construction project on an adjoining property, consider reaching out to us. Our team of experienced professionals can help you establish good communication with a neighboring developer, make timely and effective requests for information and take the appropriate steps to protect your interests.

Benjamin M. Cornelius, PE, SE

Partner and Director of Forensic Engineering and Loss Consulting

LERA Consulting Structural Engineers

(212) 750-9000

[1] New York City Construction Outlook Update, New York Building Congress, June 28, 2016

[2] Construction spending to hit $40B in 2016: Building Congress, Rich Bockmann, The Real Deal – New York Real Estate News, October 29, 2015

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